Amid Thursday morning’s tidings of Rosh Hashana on Twitter, former CIA agent and Santa Fe author Valerie Plame Wilson posted a link on the social media website to an opinion piece that stirred outrage.
“America’s Jews are driving America’s wars,” the link said.
The prominent pundit insisted to her nearly 50,000 Twitter followers that the commentary written by another former CIA staffer raised a valid point about the connection between Israel and foreign policy hawks.
But just a couple hours later, amid heavy criticism, Plame Wilson apologized. She said she hadn’t carefully read the piece she redistributed and initially defended.
On Twitter, the fast-burning controversy was treated alternately as an example of a social media blunder and as a move perpetuating the sort of bigotry that has marred America’s political discourse.
Plame’s link pointed to a commentary by Philip Giraldi on The Unz Review, a website founded by conservative businessman Ron Unz that features a hodgepodge of views from corners of both the left and right.
A former CIA officer and conservative commentator, Giraldi wrote that Jewish Americans with ties to Israel are pushing for war with Iran.
But beyond arguing the issues surrounding Israel’s foreign policy or America’s 2015 nuclear treaty with Iran, Giraldi claimed that Jews are wielding control over the media and politics.
“Jewish groups and deep pocket individual donors not only control the politicians, they own and run the media and entertainment industries,” he wrote.
Giraldi went on to argue that some Jewish Americans should “recuse” themselves from Middle East policy altogether.
When they do speak out on issues involving the Middle East, Giraldi wrote, “the media should be required to label them at the bottom of the television whenever they pop up.”
This, Giraldi argued, would be “kind-of-like a warning on a bottle of rat poison.” He later said the line was meant in jest.
The commentary’s depictions of Jews controlling the media and politics echoed long-running nationalistic tropes blaming them for a variety of social and economic ills.
“This narrative is selectively constructed to perpetuate age old anti-Semitic stereotypes and scapegoat a minority,” one Twitter user wrote in response to Plame Wilson’s post.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald suggested the commentary reflected an attitude within the intelligence agency where Plame Wilson and Giraldi both worked: “Are you saying that people who went to work at, and built their careers inside of, the CIA probably hold some terrible opinions?”
Others expressed amazement that Plame Wilson, usually a liberal commentator, would share such a screed and do so on the Jewish New Year of all days.
Plame Wilson even launched an online fundraising campaign this summer to get $1 billion to buy a major stake in Twitter and kick President Donald Trump off the platform, asserting the website had failed to enforce its own code of conduct by allowing him to post comments “emboldening white supremacists to promoting violence against journalists.”
Plame Wilson initially defended the thrust of Giraldi’s piece, noting she is Jewish and raising concerns about calls by neoconservatives to withdraw from the nuclear treaty with Iran.
“Yes, very provocative, but thoughtful,” she wrote of Giraldi’s piece. “Many neocon hawks ARE Jewish.”
Then she apologized about an hour later.
“OK folks, look, I messed up. I skimmed this piece, zeroed in on the neocon criticism and shared it without seeing and considering the rest,” she said. “I missed gross undercurrents to this article and didn’t do my homework on the platform this piece came from. Now that I see it, it’s obvious.”
Plame Wilson referred a reporter to her post rather than commenting further.
Giraldi defended the piece.
“Valerie is entitled to her own opinion, and I respect her greatly,” he said when contacted by The New Mexican. “I don’t know what constitutes a ‘gross undercurrent.’ The point of my article is that Jewish groups and individuals in the United States are in the forefront in pushing for a war with Iran, and I am questioning why they should be allowed to get away with that.”
Contact Andrew Oxford at 505-986-3093 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andrewboxford.